Alternate history

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Doug Horton
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Alternate history is a subgenre of speculative fiction (or science fiction) and historical fiction that is set in a world in which history has diverged from the actual history of the world.


  • Plausibility, as the necessary brake and control element, has been our most essential guide.
  • It is easy to argue persuasively the truism that the lessons of history are best derived from what actually happened, rather than from what nearly happened. It should be added, however, that what happened becomes more fully comprehensible in the light of the contending forces that existed at moments of decision. Understanding of the total historical setting is bound to contribute to a clearer view of the actual course of affairs.
    • Harold C. Deutsch, introduction to What If? Strategic Alternatives of WWII
  • We look at this as the best of all possible worlds, but the French know it isn't, because most people speak English.


  • There are no correct alternate histories; there are only plausible alternate histories.
  • Science fiction writers write it. And it uses a very science fictional technique: change one thing and extrapolate from that.
  • Some years ago I used the term "alternate worlds" in front of Brian Aldiss, who took me to task for it. "They should be called alternative worlds," he said. "Calling them alternate worlds makes it sound as if they somehow take turns."
  • Blame Thande!

See also

External links

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